For your penance I'd like you to say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys for peace in the world.
OK, you think, fair enough. World peace is a good thing. So you say your prayers for world peace, and then you see the "peace" protesters on the corner comparing Bush to the terrorists that murdered almost three thousand people almost four years ago, and not for the first time you wonder what kind of peace it is that they want.
In the Gospel reading for Friday, Jesus teaches that we must accept people as they are, the sinners and the tax collectors. He comes to bring people together under the peace of His word, to bring peace to our hearts.
True, you think as you listen to the homily, although elsewhere you remember Christ talking about how families will be divided because of what He teaches. But you appreciate the truth of Jesus' words all the same. As a sinner, you give thanks for His mercy; your sick soul cries out for the healing touch of the Divine Physician, and you seek His peace in your heart.
And then you see the stories about the new president of Iran, how he might have been one of the terrorists who held Americans hostage twenty-five years ago, and you read the words coming out of Iran about how they're more determined than ever to build a nuclear program, and you think again about that prayer for world peace. You think how elusive that peace is, and how hard it is to pray for that peace when there is evil in the world, evil that does not listen to reason, evil that is dedicated to the kind of peace that can only be found at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun. It's always that way when you deal with tyranny.
You hear the stories about the kidnapped girl who was found safely in Idaho, how it looks as if the man who took her was a convicted sex offender who at the time of the kidnapping was on bail after having been charged with yet another sex crime in Minnesota. You read about how her young brother is probably dead, just like her mother is. You look at the baby across the aisle from you in church, and you think to yourself that as long as the courts keep releasing them, the only way children like that baby will be safe from these sexual predators is if they're put to death. A feeling boils up inside you, a feeling that some might say is very much like hate, and you're powerless to deny that's what it is even as you're powerless to deny that's what you feel.
So you say your prayers at night and you pray for peace, but sometimes your heart isn't in it, because you have a bad feeling about how it's all going to end. It should make you pray even harder, but you wind up pulling your punches, because in your heart of hearts you know that peace isn't possible, that it won't come about until those who are dedicated to spreading evil in the world are eliminated. The truth, as you see it, is that sooner or later the United States is going to have to go into Iran and eliminate that nuclear capability, one way or another. Just as the truth is that the need for the death penalty hasn't been eliminated quite yet, that there are still people out there so dangerous that there's no other way to protect the innocent from them.
Because there is evil in the world. You hesitate to call it pure evil, because that's such a cliche, and in the case of nations it isn't quite true; there were good people even in Sodom. But evil by any other name is still evil, and it still has to be dealt with. Sometimes it isn't neat. Sometimes it isn't pretty. And more than once it leaves you worried not only about the state of the world, but the state of your own soul.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
His mercy endures forever.
And in the stillness that follows, the solitude of the night or the silence that you share with the Blessed Sacrament in the sanctuary, you think those thoughts, and you pray for that mercy because you know that no matter what happens, in the world or elsewhere, you need that mercy as much as anyone else does. Maybe even more. And you know as long as that mercy exists, there's still a chance for peace. Peace in the world, and peace in your own heart.